The Great Indian Water Serial

I couldn't come up with a humourous title, so please adjust. 

It all started the day before yesterday when getting home from work, I was welcomed by a tap that started out well and within nanoseconds began producing some disgusting sounding phhssstss and what not instead of that so-called elixir - water. "Man, looks like someone forgot to fill up the overhead tank" I said to myself (not in the exact words). I walked down to catch hold of our all-in-all guy  in the aparment and lo! what do I see? Clustered on the lobby floor were buckets in pink, orange and green and various other storage implements. It was starting to look ugly already. The a-i-a guy confirmed my worst nightmare. The water pump was broken! Of course, nobody knew what the heck was going on. Putting together whatever blabber I could get out of a-i-a and other residents one thing became clear - the pump won't get fixed in a jiffy. Which brought up the question of what to do? Well, it had already been answered by the bucket sammelan. Time to do what grandma was so used to doing not 10 years ago. 

Carrying whatever buckets we could get hold of, wifey and I entered the arena. A kind fellow working in the construction site opposite our apartment had agreed to switch on his pump so that we could gather as much water as we could. I saw that some families had recruited a lot of help (relatives, maids, drivers, etc.) and were hoarding up buckets and buckets of water.  I knew I wouldn't match any of them. Thankfully a light bulb went off in one of our heads (wifey's in most probability but still). Slogging our way across the road, we managed to fill our washing machine with water and then about four buckets of water. Thanks to wifey's over-ruling of my objection to buying new buckets, we had a couple of them extra.

As I stood waiting for the buckets to fill, I remembered how this used to be an usual occurence at grandma's place. Chennai's metro water ruled the roost then and being the unspoken emperors of everything water, Metro decided when and who should get how much water. Early in the morning or late in the night, one stubby voice hollers "Water"  and a hundred different voices from up and down the streets echo the jubilant phrase. The voices are naturally not remembered in the sudden deluge that follows this chant. The army has already been on red alert and in a jiff hundreds of feet stomp out the coming of the king. No buckets, only the multi-hued plastic and metal "kodams"(pots). 

I should describe the arrangement a bit. Now, there were two kinds of water taps that Metro provided - one was the community tap that stood revered at most street corners and the other installed in an individual's house. Although the latter was in an individual's house, it was sort of a given thing that they would allow the community to fill up there as well. Yet, the individual claimed ownership of the tap and therefore was its master. 

The community taps would've a queue of kodams already waiting for the water. Sometimes they stand there alone like a huge battalion of soldiers. This is where the great battle for water begins. Fingers are pointed, line jumpers are called out. A fierce word duel would break out every single time.  There were of course occasions when long standing rivalry egged-on by the enthusiastic crowd becomes a fist fight and much hair pulling. There is one more thing that I ought to mention. Men, being the "superior race", never bothered with such simple things as water. So it was mostly the women and the children that were entrusted with the job of filling water which is why the hair pulling.

At the latter variety of taps, a different situation would arise. The house owners were the controllers and therefore it was their right to fill as much water as they pleased. Every house used to have these "drums" - usually bought from the discarded stock of factories. Don't even ask what those drums could've stored in their original birth. The house-owner took her own sweet time to fill up one or more drums of water. The others had to wait for them to finish. 

You must realise that Metro being the lord of all lords had the only say in when the water flow would stop and it was as good as anybody's guess. Hence while the house owner filled up, there would be an anxious crowd waiting for access. After about ten pots, a weak murmur would start among the crowd. People questioning the house-owner's intentions and evilness. After about fifteen pots, the crowd would become restless and a low heckling would start in the background. The house-owner would feign ignorance and continue with their priorities for some more time until someone from the crowd lets out a venomous shout. At this the owner would let drop all pretenses and in an effort to stamp their authority would say - "No water for any of " Thus another fight would break out. This wouldn't usually degrade into a dog-fight cos the house-owner is secure within their fenced out wall. With just about enough time left, some wise-one would console the house-owner and win back their chance to fetch water. In just a few hours time, you would see the house-owner and the hecklers sharing a joke across their gates or more commonly bitch about some other neighbour or even more commonly wondering when the Metro-god would bless them again.

Thus were formed many a bond and many more a lifetime enmity in these tiny little neighbourhoods.

Posted in Labels: | 1 comments


One of the most common things to happen to the code-churners in software companies is the "squeeze". Don't let your dirty mind wander, Mr. Sander. I talk (write) about that seemingly unimportant but exceedingly irritating phenomenon called squeeze seats. In simple words, you are rendered homeless and are living off the street. That's an exaggeration, of course, but you get my point.

This phenomenon is brought out when the company is expanding (hmm, I wonder when that word will ever come back into vogue) and runs out of locations for its employees. There are more people than the number of "actual" seats on the floor. Someone in their infinite wisdom decided long ago that all cubicles should be sufficiently spaced. Why? Don't ask me. I can only come up with some very weird-but-makes-sense possibilities that I don't want to share.  Anyway, what this visionary achieved was that there was sufficient space in every 4-persion cubicle to squeeze in a fifth person. Sometimes even a sixth person.

So there is an eco system within the cubicle that established itself. All the occupants - four humans, sundry lucky bamboos, sometimes a fish or two, mugs, bottles (of water) - are in a state of equilibrium with each other. Routines get established around this ecosystem with the occasional visitor disturbing the peace by grabbing a chair. There are always chairs going missing, chairs getting switched, paper dump boundaries getting crossed, etc but the equilibrium remains. At least on the outside.

Into this eco-system, the admin team introduces a poor dunce who is usually new to the team, project or even the company. To accomodate this new addition, the current masters of the eco-system have to move around their little strewn personalizations. Then comes the power sharing agreements - which electrical socket to plug into and which network port is free. The poor addition begins to settle into his/her seat trying to not let focus wander onto the neighbours' computer screens. 

Remember how when you walk down a dark street on a dark night, you get the vague feeling of being watched and of a presence? That's what a squeeze-seat feller goes through. There's always the irksome itch that makes you believe that someone is staring into your screen, that someone is watching every line of code you type or every line of chat that you send. Cross talk between the cubicle pals goes around your shoulder. 

Got the idea? Ok! I was that unfortunate one for 3 months at my new workplace and fortunately for me I am out of there (I mean the squeeze seat). Got my own niche now. Ha!! My space, my stuff!

Posted in Labels: | 0 comments